Train Travels in Europe: How to get from Vienna to Budapest?
Updated: Apr 15
When in Central Europe, your best way to get around from city to city is via their extremely efficient trains! Every single time when we're in Europe, we always make it a point to prioritise train travels. This time, we took a train from Vienna to Budapest. If you're looking to book a train, here's a useful guide for it!
You may also be interested in Train Travels in Spain: How to book Spain's Renfe Trains
Given the proximity of Budapest to Vienna, it is also possible to take a full day tour! But to fully appreciate the beauty of Budapest, we do recommend at least 2 full days in this Eastern European city. Also, Budapest is less costly than most cities in Central Europe so it makes a great destination for #budgettravellers!
How to book European Train Tickets online?
Most people think that in order to travel by train in Europe, the only way is via the pricey Eurail Global Pass. That could potentially be one useful and cheaper option if you are intending to go on a rail trip or several day trips within Europe. For instance, train tickets in Switzerland is extremely pricey. During my exchange days, a ticket from Bern (where I studied) to Zurich or Geneva airport could cost MORE than the budget airline ticket itself! Visitors to Switzerland then should definitely get the Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Half Fare Card for massive cost-savings!
But if you are only looking at taking just one trip from country A to country B, it may make better sense to book a single-way ticket. When booking European train tickets online, you can choose to book via the origin country's railway or the destination country's railway. In this case, since we are travelling from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary we could either book it on OBB (the Austrian railway company) or via the MAV (the Hungarian railway company).
Since OBB website is more user-friendly than MAV, we actually booked our tickets via OBB. Sometimes, travel companies could also get you cheaper fares than the actual railway company website so it is best to do a little bit of homework to save on your transportation!
What is the best time to travel on trains?
Well, it depends! As far as possible, we like to either travel in the early morning or in the evening. We find that this helps us to save a lot of travel time and we don't have to wait around and spend the entire day travelling from one city to another. Best if there are overnight train options! I did Bern, Switzerland to Vienna, Austria on an overnight train, saving me a night on accommodation and having an extra day to travel!
For this trip, we left Vienna at 4.42pm in the late afternoon and arrived in Budapest about 7.00pm. We selected timings based on the prices and the duration of the train travel. The entire journey takes about 2 hour 20 minutes on the direct trains and we paid 14 euros for one ticket, 19 euros for the other (tiered pricing so we could only get one on discount!), and another 6 euros for 2 seat reservations (total 39 euros).
Select direct tickets!
Another tip is to ensure that you book DIRECT trains so that you won't have to make any form of transfers that would confuse you!
Do we need seat reservations when travelling on trains in Europe?
I would say, YES! Especially if you are lugging your luggage and want to be assured to have a seat with your partner. Otherwise, you may need to walk the entire train just to get a seat!
Why are there various train stations in a single city?
Most European cities have more than one train station and it is best to check which station is actually nearer to the city centre. For train travels from Vienna to Budapest, you should be booking them from Vienna Hbf (or Wien Hbf) and arriving in Budapest Keleti.
My OBB train experience from Vienna to Budapest
Trains in Europe are punctual and rarely do they arrive and depart late so do be sure to arrive at the station BEFORE your departure timing. As a guide, we always make sure we're there about 30 minutes before. This gives us ample time to check which railway track will our train be, ask for directions, or help. Sometimes, it is also useful to stock up on snacks and water (especially for longer trips)!
We took the newer high-speed RailJet OBB train this time and it was new, clean, and extremely comfortable. Since we had reserved our seats beforehand, we didn't have to "fight" with the rest of the patrons and settled into our seats in no time!
When on the train, there will be employees of OBB that would come around to check whether you have your tickets. Travellers found without tickets would face heavy penalties such as fines so do make sure you do have your tickets when you go onboard the trains!
We brought along our books so that kept us occupied and we arrive at Budapest Keleti in no time! There are usually announcements made over the PA system on board the trains to inform you that you are arriving your destination. Since this was a direct route, there wasn't much of a confusion.
Upon arriving in Budapest Keleti, it reminded us of London train stations, a little older and more Harry Potter-ish. From there, we made our way to accommodation.
Where to stay in Budapest?
If you're wondering where to stay in Budapest, we stayed at Ibis Budapest City. It is conveniently located near Blaha Lujza Ter metro, has several supermarkets nearby, and is in walking distance to many of the Ruin Pubs.
We hope that this blogpost has been helpful in helping to plan your journeys from Vienna to Budapest!